What other options have we considered?
In March 2016, Taunton Deane (TDBC) and West Somerset (WSC) confirmed commitment to continuing joint working between the councils and authorised work to create a high level Transformation Business Case that tested what transformation, (working differently, in a modern, streamlined way) could deliver in the following sequential options:
Option 1 – One team of officers delivering transformed services to the two councils (TDBC and WSC);
Option 2 – Creating a single new council to replace WSC and TDBC, as well as transforming services;
Option 3 – Two councils separately progressing their own transformation agendas and working independently.
Both councils agreed that option 1, whilst providing savings of £2.6m per year, did not provide a sustainable future for both councils as it was not clear how West Somerset could make sufficient additional savings to close its predicted budget gap.
In then considering options 2 and 3 both councils concluded that option 2 offers the best way forward for our communities, delivering an additional minimum £0.5m savings per year, addressing the pressing financial need for West Somerset and providing sustainability in the longer term. These extra savings can be generated through having fewer staff and councillors, reduced accommodation costs, less red tape and a single set of meetings to be supported, for example.
The councils believe that the creation of a single new council offers the most positive future for our communities and are therefore proposing this option as the preferred way forward.
By working together, we can protect services and keep council tax down. Staying separate could put more jobs and services at risk – and lead to higher bills. There will be more opportunities for those at the grass roots of local democracy – town and parish councils.
The councils did not consider wider or more fundamental changes to the structure of local government, as there were, and remain, no detailed external proposals in this regard and none capable of meeting our urgent need for change.
Taunton Deane and West Somerset pursuing the present proposal does not however prevent a new council considering future opportunities which may arise regarding service delivery or wider changes.
We continue to engage with our partners to make sure we have the best solution for our communities.
More detail around the options considered is available within the high level transformation business case and the reports which were considered by our council which are available to view and download at: www.yournewcouncil.org/downloads
Q4. The councils considered a number of options for closer working and cost savings. Do you have any comments to make to the Secretary of State on these or other alternatives?